Sharing Parenting Responsibilities with Your Partner
If you don't explain to your partner that you need a break from parenting, that you are very tired at the end of the day, that parenting is hard work, how is he supposed to know? Speak up!
Mothers know best. It just seems right that you know when the baby should play, and sleep, and eat. You know what's "too rough" and what's "too loud." It's an inborn sixth sense that you're given to help raise your children. But this "fact" gets many new mothers in trouble with their husbands. The new dad in your house probably already feels like a third wheel. Everyone coos over you and the baby. Everyone asks how you and the baby are doing. Life now revolves around you and the baby, and every time he tries to join the inner circle, your protective instinct might push him out.
Think about it. Have you said anything in the past day that sounds something like "Lower your voice, you'll wake the baby." "Hold her head when you pick her up." "Don't be so rough with him." "That's not how you do it." If you have, you might need to practice the skill of sharing.
Your partner's parenting skills might be different from yours, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're wrong. If you want him to be an involved, caring dad, give him a chance to learn how to parent. Hold your breath and leave him alone when you're tempted to step in and whisk the baby away from him. Limit the number of times you tell him he's wrong each day. Make sure that he and the baby have time alone every day (and not just when she's sleeping). If he's taking a back seat, encourage him to be more involved. Ask him to feed the baby or take him for a walk. Praise his attempts. And be willing to admit your own uncertainty.
New moms and dads both experience feelings of inadequacy, anger, confusion, uncertainty, guilt, and worry. If this is your first baby, you are both learning the ropes together. If you make an effort to share your baby, you will have each other to fall back on and look to for reinforcement. This dynamic will come in handy down the road as you raise your child together.
Sharing the coos and smiles of a new baby is the fun part. But sharing the diapering, feeding, and caring is something else. It's not uncommon for a new mother to resent what looks like an unequal distribution of family responsibilities. While you're at home dealing with an endless cycle of crying, feeding, diapering, and washing, the baby's other parent walks out the door each morning to "freedom" in the world of adult conversations, "important" interactions, and financial rewards. You might find yourself seething with anger when he returns home with a cheery, "So how was your day?"
Before you get yourself into this corner, talk to your spouse about family responsibilities. He's busy all day; you're busy all day. So how will you divide the baby responsibilities when you're both at home? Talk, talk, talk. Make time every day to talk about your feelings and his, too. Explain your needs and create a plan that makes both of you happy. This habit of open communication will serve you well if you plan to return to work eventually. If you don't speak up now and create a system that balances the load, you'll find yourself walking in the door, after a hard day at work, only to find a hungry baby, a pile of laundry on the washing machine, a load of groceries in the car, and a husband contentedly watching TV. Speak up now; talk to each other about how you can both take responsibility for caring for a child who belongs equally to both of you.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth © 2004 by Michele Isaac Gliksman, M.D. and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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